EpiPen maker Mylan slammed for "PR move" in price hike controversy

Lawmakers are asking EpiPen maker Mylan tough questions amid growing outrage over massive price increases for the potentially life-saving allergy treatment. The company has tried to ease concerns and announced programs to help families cover the cost.

But Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings said in a statement: “Offering a meager discount only after widespread bipartisan criticism is exactly the same tactic used by drug companies across the industry to distract from their exorbitant price increases, as our investigation has shown repeatedly. Nobody is buying this PR move anymore.”

Mylan announced it’s increasing the value of the coupons it gives patients, while expanding a financial assistance program -- news that will benefit many who rely on the EpiPen to stop severe allergic reactions. But the actual price of the EpiPen remains the same, reports CBS News correspondent Vinita Nair.

“This isn’t an EpiPen issue, this isn’t a Mylan issue -- this is a health care issue,” Mylan CEO Heather Bresch said Thursday in a CNBC interview. 
 
She tried to re-frame the debate in her first public comments since “CBS This Morning’s” report on how EpiPen prices rose from about $100 seven years ago to more than $600.
 
“Look, no one’s more frustrated than me. I’ve been in this business for 25 years,” Bresch said.

“But you are the one raising the price, though. How can you be frustrated?” the CNBC reporter asked.

“My frustration is there is a list price of $608. …There are four or five hands that the product touches and companies that it goes through before it ever gets to that patient at the counter,” Bresch said.  


 
Many patients will be paying less under Mylan’s new plan. Coupons that were previously worth up to $100 dollars will now cover up to $300. But for some, that still leaves $300 dollars in out-of-pocket costs – triple what the device sold for in 2009.
 
“I think Mylan’s got a real problem here,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said.
 
Grassley is one of several lawmakers demanding more information about the price increase. The EpiPen has a virtual monopoly after a recall forced its main competitor off the market.
 
“If you could put up a $300 gift certificate, why not do it the simpler way, just lower the price to a reasonable level?” Grassley said.
 
Even the father of Mylan’s CEO, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has expressed concern. In a statement, he said he looks forward to reviewing Mylan’s “response in detail.”
 
“I don’t know if Mylan really understands that this anxiety is real for parents and that when they raise price, it causes a lot of problems,” Wells Fargo equity research analyst David Maris said.

Maris said the issue is bigger than the EpiPen. He looked into Mylan’s pricing for its other prescription drugs.
 
“There are a lot of products that they raise price by triple digits, over 100 percent, and it was surprising,” Maris said, adding that the count amounted to a “couple dozen” products.

The company, meanwhile, has lost a celebrity supporter. Actress Sarah Jessica Parker, whose son has severe allergies, was part of an awareness campaign. But she posted on Instagram she’s ended her relationship with Mylan, saying she’s “disappointed, saddened, and deeply concerned” by the price increases.

A photo posted by SJP (@sarahjessicaparker) on